NFL lockout, here we come. That is pretty much the only conclusion that can be drawn from the news that the NFL and NFLPA are taking a break following seven days of mediated negotiations in the current labor dispute. The sides will reportedly begin meeting again March 1, but that is just two days before the current collective bargaining agreement expires and the lockout is likely to begin.
Federal mediator George Cohen said in a statement on NFL.com that "some progress was made, but very strong differences remain."
Can a lockout still be avoided in the short three-day negotiating window that will take place next week? Pro Football Talk does not think so:
So if "some progress was made" in seven straight days of talks, how can the "very strong differences [that] remain" be resolved in only three more days of talks? It most likely won’t happen.
The best hope for avoiding a lockout comes from the possibility that enough progress will be made on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week to prompt the two sides to extend the deadline for the expiration of the deal.
The best news through the last week has probably been that both sides, owners and players, have continued to remain silent about the talks. In the end it isn't really going to be important that we know who said what about whom, and what incremental steps have or have not been taken toward getting a deal done. Whatever the terms of an eventual deal all NFL fans care about is seeing an uninterrupted season in 2011.